DSLR rig with follow focus or pro camcorder?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by macuser453787, May 24, 2015.

  1. macuser453787, May 24, 2015
    Last edited: May 24, 2015

    macuser453787 macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Hello folks,

    I've been mulling over a question and thought I'd post it here to get some professional advice so that I can make an informed decision.

    The question is, what is the better option for achieving quick and accurate focus when shooting video: A DSLR rig with follow focus or a professional camcorder with really good AF?

    I have a Nikon D5300 and it's a nice piece of equipment, however having done some testing of its AF features I've come to the conclusion (and if somebody has tips on this then I'd appreciate it) that its subject tracking AF is insufficient for consistent, smoothly-focused video.

    I say this because firstly, the D5300 uses contrast detection AF which is a little slower anyway (at least it is on the D5300), and secondly because it doesn't always seem to give me the most accurate result, and thirdly because with subject tracking in AF-F the camera is constantly refocusing as the composition changes during filming. In retrospect perhaps I should have gone with a phase detection DSLR, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.

    I'm not much beyond a novice at this point but am willing to learn and I'm very much enjoying the experience! Given that I'm highly interested in filming professionally, I'm faced with a decision with how to move forward. Do I relegate the DSLR to photography/filming relatively stationery subjects, and get a pro camcorder that has really good and consistent AF for more action-oriented shots? Or do I invest in a quality DSLR rig with follow focus so that I can effectively use the D5300 for run and gun and other action-oriented shots that require constant refocusing? Or another option: do I get a pro camcorder and a follow focus rig for it?

    I suppose the answer depends on exactly what I want to use the equipment for, and if so then the answer to that is I don't exactly know, except to say that I want a setup that will give me the most versatility for shooting good video while learning and developing skills. Most immediately, I may have an opportunity soon to shoot video and take pics at a friend's wedding in a non-professional capacity, and I want the footage to look good because I plan on putting something together as a gift to the bride and groom.

    I have some money invested in DSLR-specific equipment, mainly in lenses and miscellaneous accessories, but I'm good with expanding beyond that if the pro camcorder route is the way to go. I realize that I should learn some basics about manual focusing too, but that's true no matter which route I go.

    Any experienced advice would be very much appreciated. If you have anything to say based on questions I didn't necessarily know to ask or things I didn't know to consider, please feel free to post those comments as well. :)

    Incidentally, I'm looking at some options on B&H's site and I've found


    and this

    among others for a DSLR follow focus rig,

    and this

    and this

    for pro camcorder options.

    So I guess I'm also asking for input about anyone's experiences with these or other similar equipment. Do you have another specific rig or camcorder in mind for consideration? Which one and why?

    I look forward to your advice, comments, suggestions, etc. Thanks so much in advance for your help! :)
  2. e1me5 macrumors 6502


    Jun 11, 2013
    Just practice focusing with or with out a follow focus kit. Soon you will find yourself doing it with out even thinking!! No AF system is faster and better than a trained eye/mind/hand! :)
  3. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    I don't think you will be happy with any current auto focus. No auto or follow focus system will match the results of manual focus in the hands of a good cameraman. Auto focus helps those of us that are impaired or just too lazy to practice and get good at it. :)

    My Cannon D70 does an amazing job following focus, but there are rare times where its off hunting a little. If you want the pro look, you need to have pro skills. But even amateurs can get pretty good.
  4. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I have a D810 with a Zacuto finder, but no other DSLR-rig parts. I either have it on a tripod, or I'm holding it to my eye, thanks to the Zacuto. I'm still learning the best techniques for zooming (if appropriate) and manual focusing with the D810. It's hard. I do find that using auto focus and then keeping my thumb on the AF-on button (which I assume the 5300 has) often does what I need.

    I also have a Canon XA10, an earlier model of the one you link to. Its AF is OK but can definitely be tricked. I've had that happen to me when I really, really didn't want it to.

    But apart from all this, you might want to be thinking about the implications of a camcorder with a small sensor and a DSLR with a large one. You can do things (selective focus, complete control over DOF) with your DSLR that you cannot do with the small camcorder.

    I'll post a link to a short video I shot (and that my son, a professional editor in NYC, edited for me).


    Here's what's important. I never went out with the poet to shoot video. Sure, it was a possibility, but I was there to shoot stills for myself, and she was there for her own purposes. We agreed that when she was finished with what she wanted to do, that maybe I'd try some video. So I did. I didn't have the Z-finder with me, and I didn't have the D810 on a video head. It was on my regular tripod with a regular ballhead. I had the 14-24, the 70-200 and the 105 with me, and enough time to change lenses as needed, but not too much time because the sun was rising and obviously couldn't be stopped for a reshoot. I tried not to do any panning, but I did have to do some. I knew I was going to have to use the D810 basically as if it were a still camera. So I did. I also knew we were going to want slow motion, so I shot at 60p.

    I could not have produced those images with the XA10. Now of course those were special-purpose images. If I'd wanted the poet walking around in the sunrise on the cliff, most everything in focus, perhaps zooming as needed -- no problem. But that would have been a very different video.

    As it happens, on my Vimeo page there are three videos made with the XA10 (three sections of the same performance). Here's one:


    The performance was completely unrehearsed, and shot in a yoga studio at night with only a Home Depot work light and whatever light came from the overheads. Plus a tin roof and sometimes rain. The dancer -- quite well-known in Japan -- prefers improvisional work. The poet, the drummer, and the dancer had talked a bit, and we had all gone to the space and looked at it. The dancer, whose English is minimal, had read translations of the poems. I had gotten the XA10 the week before. We had 30 minutes to set up. The wireless mike failed. I had a D7000 locked down on a high tripod in a corner. I had no idea what the dancer would do, except that she would stay within the performance space. Her entrance (in the "Spring" video) completely surprised me. I didn't know when she would appear and I certainly didn't know she was going to be carrying a stalk of ginger. Towards the end, the poet flubbed a line and then, as would be normal, she repeated it. But the dancer didn't realize this had happened, so she kept dancing. I did the best I could with the editing (FCP X, which I had also just gotten) but the dancer kind of appears in a place where she shouldn't be, and abruptly.

    It's not the greatest video, but you can see how the XA10's AF pretty much worked. At the climax of her spinning moves, the XA10 lost focus and I couldn't grab it back quickly enough, so I had to cut to B roll.

    So. Here are two very different situations with two very different cameras.
    I should also say -- edited by editors with very different skill sets.
  5. v3rlon macrumors 6502a

    Sep 19, 2014
    Earth (usually)
    IF you have good lighting and a good lens and the camera finds and locks on the right subject on the first try, AF can be as good as a good cameraman.

    Did you see that IF?

    1. Smaller sensors have larger depth of field and thus more forgiveness than larger sensors. a 1/4" CMOS camera has a head start over an APSC D5300 (which in turn is more forgiving than a D810). On the other hand, the larger sensors are better for subject isolation using that shallow DOF and achieving a more film-like look.

    2. Not all cameras are created equal. Then again, the D5300 doesn't really suck. You may look at some focus setting tutorials.

    3. Not all lenses are equal. Are you using a good one?

    4. How's the lighting? Poor lighting will send any camera scrambling. That is what the focus search is such a hallmark of home video. Amateurs suck at lighting more often than not.

    I have used a variety of consumer and prosumer camcorders from Sony, Panasonic, and Canon, and they all go looking from time to time. The only way to get focus exactly where you want it is to do it yourself. Cameras just aren't smart enough to read your mind and focus on the talent instead of the guy trying to photo bomb your talent.

    If you have the 5300 and like the look you are getting, a follow focus will be cheaper than a new camera AND a follow focus. Practice, of course, will help.
  6. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Thanks all for the great tips and help and advice! :)
  7. macuser453787, May 25, 2015
    Last edited: May 25, 2015

    macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    You're right. I believe the D5300 is a solid camera. I intended only to point out what seems to be a deficiency in it's subject tracking AF in AF-F mode, because I had hoped it would perform better than it has so far. I think what it seems to boil down to is that the constant back and forth with contrast detection AF makes it obvious in the footage that AF is being used, and I had hoped for smoother AF tracking than that.

    I have a total of four Nikkor lenses: one that bundled with the camera, and three others that I bought at the time of purchase. I can list them if you want to know. Are there specific lenses you recommend?


    Thanks for your reply! I appreciate your help. I really liked the close-up shot of the eye in the first video. Great shot. May I ask which lens/settings you used for that?
  8. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Thanks that's very encouraging! :)
  9. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Yes I'm finding out that AF seems to have limitations. I've been leaning towards getting a FF rig just because it looks like it would help with quicker re-focusing since I wouldn't be losing precious time searching for the focus ring on the lens body. Also it would be a shoulder rig, which would allow me to support the camera for better stability (right now I'm free-handing it for run and gun).

    Do you believe that using a FF system detracts from optimal focusing?
  10. monokakata, May 25, 2015
    Last edited: May 25, 2015

    monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    105 f/2.8 micro. It's a versatile lens.

    As for settings, I don't remember. Probably something about f/8 or even f/11. It was the only shot not taken on the same day. I had the camera on a monopod, outside, with the subject's head against a wall. With something like that, you can't have the subject moving in relation to the camera.
  11. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    One question - what kind of thing are you shooting??
  12. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    May 19, 2012
    Galatians 3:13-14
    Thanks much for the info! I'll have to try that sometime. I've got a Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 micro. Perhaps I can get similar results with it. :)


    It's not any one thing. I might use my equipment for shooting nature scenes, events, interviews, documentary-style stuff, etc. I'm aiming for versatility. :)
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    NONE is "best".

    AF is very good if you are doing hand held news gathering or interview work and you don't have a big crew or if you are shooting a film in this style. In these shots the subject is up close.

    But if you have time and a crew then you can use the follow focus with your camera on a tripod and your actors will stand on marks you have drawn on the floor and prefocused using stand in actors. This technique requires TWO camera operators unless it is a 100% static shot where the camera does not move. Pulling manual focus allows you to intentionally blur a face or to have a foreground object that is out of focus or whatever else might fool the AF.

    They really produce a different result.

    Another case where you need manual focus is if using very shallow DOF where focusing on the eyes is different from focusing on the nose. No AF system is that smart.

    It mostly depends on the look you want.
  14. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    forget AF - no professional uses it, regardless of the medium & camera.

    the decision between a video camera and a dslr should be made on base of what you're shooting.

    you're a one-man-band, shooting live stuff, interviews, concerts, ENG, ....
    that's what videocameras were made for.

    you do mostly dramatic stuff, often work with a crew, ... a dslr can give you excellent pictures for a fraction of the price of a video-camera (5d mark III ~ 2500$, c300 ~ 16000 $ )
  15. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Aug 15, 2008
    Agree with the AF statement, but the DSLR vs. video camera is simplifying things a bit. That $2500 will likely only get you a 5DmkIII without a lens, not to mention any other gear (audio, support, etc.) you'll need to make it suitable for video. Not to mention there are plenty of options well under 16K for video.
  16. DrNeroCF macrumors 6502

    Sep 2, 2004
    I only shoot video on DSLR for fun, but I've found that not having a par focal lens really makes things more difficult if you're shooting something live and need to zoom and stay focused. Not sure if a follow focus is supposed to help with that, or is reliant on that, just something to keep in mind I suppose.
  17. b0fh666 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 12, 2012
    DSLR and learn to MF... AF for video is... subpar

    and if plan to use a zoom lens, choose carefully... some have absurd amounts of focus breath
  18. Unami, May 27, 2015
    Last edited: May 27, 2015

    Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    you're right - i was over-simplifying. i just wanted to present a comparison between two large-frame cameras without lenses (that's why i chose canon for both), one top of the line dslr and one top of the line videocamera.

    a better alternative would probably be the c100 which retails for ~3000.

    imho, the point is: it depends on what you're shooting. i've got a panasonic af100 because i really liked to have a more or less "proper" videocamera but wanted to have exchangeable lenses and a large sensor. after 4 years of usage i'm pretty sure, it would have been cleverer to buy something like a xf100 or ex1 for everyday business and a gh4 for that shallow depth of field look, when you need it. as much as i like the shallow dof, 95% of the jobs that pay my bills could profit from a fixed, parfocal, powerzoom lens.

    still, the af100 got built in nd-filters, a battery that lasts for hours and can be changed while mounted on a tripod, xlr-inputs, some screw-holes to mount gear, ... so it's still better suited for your everyday run 'n gun job than a dslr-rig.
  19. catonfire macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2013


    I switched from a Canon XL1-s to the 5d2 some years ago for general corporate / live event / short narrative work. Camcorders are more ideal to operate for run and gun but I find the DSLR look outweighs the headaches of shooting with them.

    I use a follow focus with full frame sensors regularly for run and gun and it can be very difficult depending on what lens you are shooting with. If you haven't much experience and are doing live events it can be extraordinarily difficult. It will take months of practice to get decent at it if you're new to this. You will need to plan and think out your shoots to minimize the difficulties.

    If you are shooting a planned narrative in a controlled setting it is more reasonable but still difficult. Particularly on full frame cameras liked the 5d2/3. One virtue of the Sony a7s BTW, is that you can also shoot in a "super 35" format which is easier to focus with as the sensor is a bit smaller than full frame.

    You'll seldom miss a shot due to focus issues but clients will probably be less impressed with your 'camcorder' look footage. You will probably also have a lot of blown out highlights which will add to the 'cheap' look.

    1/3 or 1/2 or 2/3" sensor camcorders were made for live events as others have stated and eliminate these issues. But 1/3 sensor cameras can't achieve the shallow DoF that you probably enjoy on your DSLR. 1/2" sensors like the Sony Ex cameras are better but still have a quasi-2008 camcorder feel.

    The cheapest autofocus cine 'DSLR' is the Canon C100. Prices have come down recently to DSLR levels. Perhaps rent one and see if the autofocus works for you. If so, you have the best of both worlds.

    Though I sometimes miss shots with my DSLR/FF rig, the look and feel of full frame sensors really outweigh the focus issues by and large for my tastes. But the focus issues don't go away so you have to compensate:


    1. STOP DOWN: to increase DoF. But this comes with a sensor noise penalty as you up the ISO to compensate. Therefore the Sony a7s is a big help here.

    2. COVERAGE: Shoot with multiple cameras. I shot a wedding recently, and one solution to missed focus moments was to always have a wide shot camera to cut away to in case one of the close up cameras missed focus for a split second. The more cameras, the less likely you'll miss a moment.

    So make friends with other shooters who have the same make and model camera as you do.

    3. SMART SHOOTING ANGLES: If your subjects are moving to and away from you, this is when you will be put to the test. Therefore, as much as possible put your camera where the subjects are moving across the frame.

    4. FAST LENSES: You will have to stop down a couple stops to get decent Depth of Field but to retain a relatively 'shallow' look you will still want a fairly wide aperture. So 1.4 lenses are really preferable.

    5. CINE LENSES: I can't recommend the Rokinon cine lenses highly enough. Very affordable, very sharp, very fast.
    -Rokinons are declicked. Your still lenses have 'clicked apertures' meaning you will see the exposure jump in increments rather than smoothly when you open up and close down. Not pretty.
    -Rokinons have geared focus rings. Save some money. Red Rock gear rings are $44 each. Multiply that by your still lens collection. There are cheaper geared bands you can attach to your Nikkors but you will have a smaller focus throw which means subtle focus shifts will be very hard. A slight turn of the barrel will really change your focus range. You'll be fighting an uphill battle with your gear to achieve focus.

    -Avoid Autofocus lenses whose barrels continuously spin. You can't really attach gears to these kinds of lenses to use with a follow focus if you want to repeat your focus moves (This is more of a narrative shoot issue). It's a pain in the ass. Again, you will be fighting your gear to achieve focus.

    Short of cine lenses, the only lenses that really work with FF units are manual lenses with long focus throw and hard stops. (Non autofocus). Zeiss lenses are a prime example. But not at all cheap. Buy or rent the ZF mounts as they have manual aperture unlike the ZE lenses for Canon. Since you shoot Nikon, this makes sense anyway.

    Another strategy to help with focus is shooting with wide lenses and getting in close. This of course, will change the character of your footage so you have to think these things out before you go in shooting. But it is an option when you're out of others.

    7. FOLLOW FOCUS UNIT: I use the Red Rock blue FF with a crank most of the time for rig work. A 'whip' less frequently but when I have an AC or I'm on a jib arm or something. About $800.

    It's pretty dependable as will be any FFs over that price. I can't speak for every FF under $800 but some I've seen have backlash and aren't so rock solid. For instance, what is the use of spending $500 on a FF that doesn't work? Did you save yourself $300 or did you just spend $500 to still not achieve critical focus which you could have done for free.

    I'm not saying there aren't any good 'cheaper' FF tools as there probably are. But the upshot is really read the reviews before you buy and understand that once you go down the road of professional tools for professional jobs, the only real benchmark is the result, not saving money. Your friends won't be consoled that you saved a few hundred buck if you've immortalized their wedding vows in blurry footage.

    If you want to learn the art of manual focus with a cheap unit, go for it. But rent dependable gear for the wedding or any other high pressure important event where 'results' outweigh 'process.'

    8. THE TOTAL RIG: I've learned the hard way that just because you buy a decent FF unit doesn't mean you have a decent FF system. What good is an expensive Follow Focus if your camera keeps torquing under the force of your levering the barrel back and forth? The gears will continuously slip. You need a strong anti-twist plate or cage around your camera that will keep it rock solid. More good money after bad but unavoidable.

    Also take a look at 'Small Rig.' They are affiliated with LanParte but more smartly designed and a more affordable option to Wooden Camera, Red Rock, Zacuto, etc. Well-made with a lot of clever accessories for your rig.

    Another lynchpin. There will be times when the camera is high or low such that the LCD on back will be impractical. And if you are in bright sunlight, the LCD of course becomes useless in a hurry. Z Finder is good for handheld work but again, not for high and low angles. Also, the Z Finder will eventually leave scorch marks on your LCD unless you only shoot at night or on overcast days.

    You will want and need a larger monitor to view focus and a Noga/Ultralight arm to position it properly.

    Atomos monitor/recorders are good. SmallHD are fine also. Here, unlike with FF units, I think even a cheap monitor is way better than nothing.

    10. PRIORITIZE: This stuff will add up to several thousand bucks so realistically you can only afford what you can, rent what you must, and use smart shooting strategies when throwing money at your focus problem isn't an option. Purchasing in this order may give you the most value/quality the most quickly:

    1. Cine lenses. Even pulling focus/aperture without a FF, these are better than still lenses. Rokinon if you're on a budget. Zeiss if you win the lottery. (Zeiss have nicer contrast but still have clicked apertures. $250 to Duclos modify a still lens). Rokinons are no-brainers. Check the reviews.

    2. Monitor/Viewfinder/LCD Loupe.
    You can't pull focus if you can't see what you are focusing. So this is more important than a FF.

    3. Follow Focus/Rails, Cage/AntiTwist plate. You'll need all these things at once. You can't really buy these things on the installment plan.

    Hope this tome helps. And if nothing else, as others have said, keep practicing pulling focus manually with whatever lenses you have. Good luck!
  20. Michael Scrip macrumors 603

    Mar 4, 2011
    Parfocal lenses are why I love a real camcorder for event shoots.

    I'd go crazy trying to keep a dance recital in focus with a DSLR.

  21. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    These are informed and accurate statements. They well summarize the dilemma of camcorder vs DSLR for video.

    As a documentary filmmaker I use DSLRs a lot. They are extremely difficult to use, esp. for run and gun stuff, but we still use them because the material looks so much better than a small sensor camcorder.

    Unami's unqualified statement about "no professional uses AF" is just not correct. We use AF wherever it makes sense. E.g, our Nikon D810s and GH4 have pretty good video AF so we use that in certain cases. Obviously when doing a controlled rack focus for artistic effect we do that manually. Even the 5D3 (which only has single-shot AF for video), we sometimes use that for an interview or quick B-roll shot. It's quicker than strapping on the Zacuto EVF and using manual focus color peaking.

    I have a Zacuto rig with geared follow focus for my 5D3, but I rarely use it. In field documentary/interview work, you'll often see many pros just turning the focus ring by hand, sometimes assisted with a strap-on lever or other aid.

    This ABC news crew used three DSLRs to shoot an interview in front of the White House, and none used follow focus rigs: http://joema.smugmug.com/Photography/ABC-News-Using-DSLRs/27068295_k76gNm

    This CNN interview used DSLRs, also without any FF rig (althought right-hand camera looks like a C100 Mk1): http://joema.smugmug.com/Photography/CNN-Moneyline-DSLR-Shoot/48683387_dfctnc

    Why do they often use using DSLRs instead of small sensor ENG cameras? Because the material looks a lot better. Why aren't they using a large sensor camcorder like a C300? In the CNN case one might be a C100. But still a good question -- it could be cost, user training, needing dual-use still/video cameras, etc. DSLRs also have a lower profile and can sometimes elude requirements for a filming permit.
  22. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    For the two examples you have I'm going to go with budget. ;) Lots of downsizing in the news area (ex. last year CNN laid of about 10% of its full time staff) which means expensive cameras (and the relatively expensive, experienced camera ops to go with them) aren't as welcome as they used to be. This goes double for website news gathering (which already have paltry budgets to begin with) and I think both of your examples are from web properties (ABC News/Yahoo on the first one and CNNMoney on the second).

    The other things you listed are valid too (smaller cameras, more simple to use, possible dual-use, shallower DoF... that hopefully has the subject in focus ;)) but budget is big reason.

    As an aside, in 10 years or so it will be interesting to see how well the super-shallow/struggling-to-maintain-focus look has aged. Recently I caught a rerun of Battlestar Galactica and I had forgotten it was wall-to-wall shaky cam and snap zooms. When I first watched BSG I thought it gave the series a gritty, in-the-moment feel but now it feels distractingly excessive and almost like the camera is trying to generate the tension in the scene that the actors cannot.
  23. Unami, Jun 17, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015

    Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    o.k., let me clarify - i've never seen any professional camera operator use AF. I work half-time for a big nationwide TV station ("big" for Europe, about 4000 employees, but no more than 2 Mio. Viewers at a time) doing ENG camera work and camera/sound assistant for documentaries. So that's probably not "unqualified". We usually "ride" focus and iris with the left hand. We mostly use Sony PDW-F800 and the occasional EX1 as B-Cams. So, no really big-chip cameras, but you'll get pretty shallow focus as well, when zoomed in.

    I also work self employed, doing corporate stuff and music videos, and i'll admit that i've used the AF of my GH3 and AF100 for some steadicam shots, where you can't touch the camera - i just don't consider it very professional, as the AF hunts sometimes and sometimes just gets it wrong. That's O.K., if you edit your own material, or have time to sort through your footage before you give it away, but if you don't and you're a professional cameraman, delivering shots with hunting AF is considered amateurish where i live.

    i agree with lethalwolfe - those examples are probably about budget and/or for web-productions. constantly used super-shallow dof already looks old & cheap - that was something we wanted to have to get that "filmic look" before we had it. like 24p shooting before the dvx-100 arrived. (nowadays it's probably super-slomo and drone footage that gets overused). but look at a lot of big-budget productions - there's not that much shallow-dof. you still can wow some customers with it (as you can with cheap magic-bullet-looks-style grading), but ultimately the "film look" is more than that - lighting, production design, make-up,...

    @BSG they even did those annoying snap-zooms/refocusing effects on the CGI sequences. in 10 years this is going to feel like the U.F.O. TV-Show does now. if they are lucky :)
  24. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    By "unqualified" I mean without qualifiers, not you're unqualified to make the statement. On DSLR material my documentary group usually uses MF, aided by the Zacuto EVF Pro, but occasionally we'll use AF on the Nikon D810s. The GH4 is a little better on video AF but creative rack focusing usually requires manual control.

    Re considered amateurish, this depends on the editor/producer and type of material. Obviously they don't put poorly focused footage in the final product. However they often simply require *some* in focus footage, not that a specific shot must be in focus. E.g, concert videography for advertising. You'll often see the band's official video crew down by the stage shooting DSLR material without any focus aids. They just need a few good shots, not that any one be in focus. Likewise with much B-roll material. The editor understands and accepts this.

    In the above link to the ABC news interview, they are using three DSLRs and only one has a loupe. The other two are either using AF or manually focusing without any aids. I prefer to manually focus using peaking on a field monitor or EVF in that situation, but it's not always possible depending on equipment and personnel.
  25. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    I always feel ashamed when I have no choice but to put out something in which the AF is hunting. I'm not a professional, but I'm aware of how bad it looks.

    Yesterday I was talking with my partner the poet (featured in my earlier videos) and she made a pitch to me about shooting a few sessions of what's called "ecstatic dancing" to go with some spoken poetry. Visually it could be fantastic but my first reaction to the idea was a sick feeling, because of the difficulties. The upside is that if the dancers agree (and they probably will) then I won't have to shoot it as the performance unfolds, but can have them start and stop from time to time. It's going to be outside, probably, and they (the poet and the dance mistress) are talking about live music.

    Sound guy? I ain't got no stinkin sound guy.

    I'm thinking that for the upclose shots I'll use the 14-24 on the D810, hand-held and moving around myself and trying to capture the ecstacies through camera motion, dancer motion, WA perspective, and not worry too much about focus.

    At least this time I'll get to spend time with the group before the actual shoot, so I'll know what I'll be facing. And this time, I'll have 3 cameras (D810, XA10, and the little Sony RX100) and time to work out how best to deploy them. Two will have to be locked down somewhere.

    And at least the poet (whose work this is really all about) will be heard on voiceover. So there's that.

    There is this thing out there that's getting more and more popular -- video poetry. I think that people looking at this thread might find it interesting, because there are so many notions of what that is. Some is nothing more than video with voiceover. Sometime you see visuals that have something to do with the poem, sometimes not. Sometimes it's stills, straight, and sometimes stills with Ken Burns effect happening. Sometimes you see the poet, sometimes not. Most of what I've seen are either visuals with some poetry thrown in, or spoken poetry with some visuals thrown in. I don't know what the right balance is either, but to me it's an interesting problem. Because it's supposed to be about the poetry, at what point might the visuals detract from it? How can the visual rhythms work with the poet's cadences? Should we ever be looking at what the poet's talking about? And so on.

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25 May 24, 2015